Council wraps up first year of term

Sam Odrowski

A new town council was sworn in about a year ago and some of their accomplishments were recently highlighted.

Coun. Douglas Judson gave an independent account of council’s efforts to move the community forward and future plans at the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce’s (FFCC) general meeting last Wednesday.

“We have recognized that we need more housing options, and have started on a course to implement rules allowing secondary dwellings within residential properties,” he noted.

“We have acted to ensure that citizens of our district can count on the same treatment by our justice system as everyone else in Ontario by speaking out about the condition of our local jail, and the longstanding judicial vacancy at our courthouse,” added Coun, Judson.

Coun. Judson said council has also heard the call of reconciliation and forged a new relationship with neighbouring First Nation communities.

The town and Agency One bands are currently working together to restore Point Park.

“I know negotiations are ongoing and there’s a definite sense of urgency to it . . . to come to some sort of resolution so we can start investing in the park again and make it back into the jewel that it should be for our community,” Coun. Mike Behan said during the Chamber meeting.

The town has also started to develop a new strategic plan for Fort Frances to help position the town as a destination, rather than a gateway, and looks to making council more inclusive of younger members of the community.

Coun. Behan said a preliminary brainstorming session with senior administration and council was held at Sunny Cove in October and a stakeholder session was held at the Civic Centre earlier this month.

Through the sessions, it was determined that the town needs to further improve its partnerships with neighbouring First Nation communities. As such, they will be consulted during the development of the strategic plan.

There will also be a public portion during the strategic plan’s development where anyone living in Fort Frances can provide input.

The plan will guide the direction of council for the remainder of their term, which ends in 2022.

Meanwhile, the town tried this year to reduce costs for taxpayers by working with the OPP to develop a new model for courthouse security and negotiating directly instead of paying legal fees.

The town’s asset management plan is being implemented so council can make evidence-based decisions, save money, and sequence work when repairing or replacing infrastructure.

Coun. Judson also lauded the town’s efforts to stand up against “big corporate bullies” such as Resolute Forest Products.

“We have been loud and clear that any licence to harvest wood from our local forests comes with obligations to this community, and that we won’t stand by while underhanded non-disclosure agreements, over-broad restrictive covenants, or baseless threats of lawsuits are used to strip our community of its economic assets and potential,” he charged.

Coun. Judson lauded the good corporate citizenship of the FFCC and how small businesses are the backbone of the district.

Meanwhile, council’s 2020 budget process has begun, with an anticipated passage at their regular meeting on March 23, 2020.

Coun. Behan said the public will have an opportunity to provide input during one of their meetings in December.